Students give architects ideas for Northside redevelopment

Cleveland Academy of Leadership students had no reservations telling Northside master planners just what they expected in their new community.

Cleveland Academy of Leadership students had no reservations telling Northside master planners just what they expected in their new community.

They’re tired of seeing drug deals on street corners, and they want more fresh fruits and vegetables. They would like a running track close by and a place where they can spend time honing their interests they’ve developed in after-school clubs like photography, technology and art.

They also want to stay at the school for three years after fifth grade, the last grade the school offers.

The students made it clear — they love their school and have high expectations for their community.

Lofty academic and social goals were set at the school by Spartanburg District 7 leaders two years ago as a result of the partnership with the city of Spartanburg, the Spartanburg Housing Authority and other key groups when planning for the Northside transformation started.

At that time, Cleveland Elementary School was renamed Cleveland Academy of Leadership and students were issued uniforms. The school year was expanded to 205 days and the interior and exterior underwent modifications to reflect the new expectations. Quotes from national figures were painted inside the school to inspire students.

The results, so far, have been astonishing. Three years ago, the school had an enrollment of 390 and that has grown to 560 with less parents choosing to send their children to other schools, said Superintendent Russell Booker.

The school saw the highest achievement scores in its history this year on state and federal report cards. Previously considered an “at-risk” school, the school increased its rating to “below average” and had a “good” improvement rating, Booker said.

On the federal report card, the school scored 39 last year and 68.5 this year.

“That’s significant improvement,” Booker said. “We had 20-point gains in third grade reading and the fifth grade had a huge, double-digit increase.”

But more than that, Booker said expectations are higher and the students have worked hard to achieve the gains. Their confidence level has increased and they’re focused on building leadership qualities, Booker said.